Man Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for Cambridge Arson - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Man Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for Cambridge Arson

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Pernell Clanton, 26 Pernell Clanton, 26
(Photo:WBOC) (Photo:WBOC)

CAMBRIDGE, Md.- Almost four years ago on Race Street in Cambridge, an apartment building went up in flames.  People were jumping from second floor windows onto mattresses below to escape from the fire.  Earlier this year, a man was at long last arrested and charged with setting that fire.  That man has been sentenced, and will be spending the next several decades behind bars.

Pernell Clanton is 26 now, but at the age of 22 he set a fire that drove 22 people from their home on the 500 block of Race Street just over a week before Christmas in 2012.  It's an image burned into the memories of the firefighters who were out there that night.

"They were jumping and the people underneath were trying to catch or help.  One lady I think broke both her legs when she jumped out.  But we were really blessed that nobody was killed in that fire," said Ricky Travers, one of the firefighters on the scene that night.

The Dorchester State's Attorney's Office says Clanton had a previous dispute with someone he believed was in the building, and tried to scare the person by setting the fire.  Clanton's intended target was not in the building.  But Tevin Ennels was.  He was one of the people who had to jump from that second floor.

"I opened the door up and saw all this smoke.  After I saw all the smoke, I closed the door.  We threw my mattress out the window, and after that we started jumping out the window," said Ennels.

People in Cambridge thought after close to four years, the man who set the fire would never be caught.

"My man, he did a good job of hiding and running, I'll say that.  I didn't think they would catch him, but like they say, justice is what it is," said Kevin Stallings.

State's Attorney Bill Jones says the case had run cold, but a new tip surfaced that led to the arrest and conviction.

"Investigators from the fire marshal's office had the opportunity to follow up on that lead, which lead to this defendant, who fortunately for us also then cooperated with the investigation and gave us the evidence we needed to get the conviction we got this week," said Jones.

Clanton will be going to prison for 40 years, but local say no amount of time will erase the memory of that night.

Clanton pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree arson and nine counts of first=degree assault.  He was sentenced to 255 years in prison, with 215 suspended, leaving 40 active years of prison time.  He will be eligible for parole after 20 years, and when released will be on supervised probation for five years, and will have no contact with the victims, and will will receive mental health and abuse treatments.

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